Man files suit against Diocese of Charlotte claiming sexual abuse

WBTV-3 News, North Carolina/July 19, 2011

Charlotte, North Carolina - An alleged victim and his attorney have filed a lawsuit against the Diocese of Charlotte claiming sexual abuse years ago by priest which also alleges the Diocese tried to cover up the various incidents.

Attorney Seth Langson spoke outside the Mecklenburg County courthouse Tuesday afternoon about the child sexual abuse and cover up civil lawsuit which alleges that Father Richard Farwell began sexually abusing a teenage boy at St. Ann's Catholic Church in Charlotte during the early 1980s.

The suit says Farwell continued to molest the boy at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Salisbury and also in the North Carolina mountains.

The plaintiff claims he confessed to Farwell about a separate incident involving sexual abuse and that's when Farwell allegedly began abusing him as well.

The victim is now in his 40s and claims that he was abused in a room behind the alter at St. Anns, according to attorney Langson and attorney Leto Copeley, who spoke to WBTV for about five minutes. The plaintiff claims he came forward now because he just recently learned of the alleged cover up.

"He did not learn until recently that of the involvement of the Diocese in covering up its knowledge of the abuse of young boys under the care of Father Farwell and of its sending Father Farwell for treatment of sexual abuse," said Copeley.

The suit alleges the Diocese sent Farwell to a Massachusetts treatment center for sexual addiction in 1985, and rehired him in 1988 without reporting it to church members.

The suit, which seeks damages in excess of $10,000, also alleges the Diocese has concealed child sex crimes by clergy since the Diocese was founded, and that such cover ups continue now.

David Haines of the Charlotte Diocese told WBTV they have not been served with the paperwork yet and don't want to comment until they receive the lawsuit.

Farwell served as a priest until 2002 when criminal child sex abuse charges abuse were filed against him in Rowan County in a different case. (Click on the right in our Video Gallery to see a story Reporter David Whisenant filed in 2002 when Farwell was arrested.)

In November 2004, Farwell pled no-contest to "contributing to the delinquency of a minor" and he received a 181-day suspended sentence.

The plaintiff in the lawsuit also reported the alleged sexual abuse to police in 2002, but the charges were dropped.

Farwell has lived in Pompano Beach, Florida, since his arrest in 2002.

Farwell was ordained in 1981 and has served at St. Ann's Catholic Church/School and Charlotte Catholic High School (Charlotte, NC); Sacred Heart Catholic Church/School (Salisbury, NC); St. Aloysius Catholic Church (Hickory, NC); St. Dorothy's Catholic Church (Lincolnton, NC); Queen of the Apostles Catholic Church (Belmont, NC); St. Joseph's Catholic Church (Burgaw, NC) and Transformation Mission Church (Wallace, NC). Farwell has also resided in Massachusetts and Florida.

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